Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pew Center Paper on Adaptation Planning

Reinforcing my focus on local adaptation, the Pew Center released this new report: Adaptation Planning – What U.S. States and Localities are Doing. First, the report reinforces the need for adaptation, beyond mere mitigation.

While governments act to mitigate future climate change, they must also plan and act to address the impacts. This preparation includes risk assessments, prioritization of projects, funding and allocation of both financial and human resources, solution development and implementation, and rapid deployment of information sharing and decision support tools. Corresponding to the size of the challenge, impacts span entire communities and regions. As such, adaptation is dependent on numerous stakeholders from federal, state and local government, science and academia, the private sector, and community residents to develop solutions to complex problems for which prior solutions may not exist. Adaptation will require creativity, compromise, and collaboration across agencies, sectors and traditional geographic
It then emphasizes the importance of more localized approaches to adaptation, at the state and local levels, and reveals how little has been done at these levels to put adaptation planning into action.
This paper focuses on adaptation plans and actions in progress by state and local
governments. Many of these efforts are in their earliest stages. Some states are including adaptation planning within the scope of their state Climate Action Plans to address GHG emissions. A few others have recognized the need for separate and comprehensive adaptation commissions to parallel their mitigation efforts. Many are simply responding to climate impacts
as they occur, without necessarily attributing the impact to climate change.
And validating another of my beliefs - that local entities need to be networked to learn from one another, the reporting team writes:
Regardless of the basis for the adaptive response, states have much they can learn from each other, and from localities where adaptation is already occurring. While comprehensive and proactive adaptation planning is still in the early stages, as states complete their GHG mitigation plans, adaptation planning is gaining greater attention and resources from states and localities.

Cities - far more than counties - are beginning to adopt the adaptive approach to planning, but there are few examples cited in the report. King County, Washington, is one great exception that has been blogged here.

One county in particular, King County, Washington is a leader in the United States for adaptation planning. In 2006, King County formed an inter-departmental climate change adaptation team, building scientific expertise within their county departments to ensure climate change factors were considered in policy, planning and capital investment decisions. Partnering with the Climate Impacts Group,1 the county has already begun many adaptation efforts, including the development of water quality and quantity models and monitoring programs. The 2007 King County Climate Plan lays out detailed goals and actions for six (6) “Strategic Focus Areas” for adaptation efforts going forward.

Leading adaptive planning is clearly one of the reasons we have local government. That is the closest we citizens get to the people we elect to represent us and to work for our interests. It is also the most practicable level on which we citizens can converse with our government. We can show up at our local civic centers and speak directly to our planners and supervisors. We should also be able to communicate through the Web much more than we do. If there was ever a need for an effective Web-based interface between government and citizen, it is right here in the present, around local climate adaptation.

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